Shaqiri hat-trick sends Swiss into last 16
Honduras unable to shut out diminutive forward, whose hat-trick steers Switzerland into last 16
(Xherdan Shaqiri 6, 31, 71)
Switzerland powered into the last 16 as Group E runners-up, and will play Argentina for a quarter-final berth, after a superb Xherdan Shaqiri hat-trick gave them a 3-0 win over Honduras this morning (Singapore time).
The Swiss finished behind group winners France, who will meet Nigeria in the second round after a 0-0 draw with third-placed Ecuador.
The South American nation were eliminated along with the modest Hondurans, who suffered three defeats in as many games.
The Kosovo-born forward Shaqiri enjoyed a memorable afternoon, scoring the tournament's second treble, after Germany's Thomas Mueller also netted three against Portugal.
The Bayern Munich player enjoyed the honour of scoring the 50th hat-trick in World Cup history, having linked up brilliantly with striker Josip Drmic, who set up two of the goals with fine movement after he was preferred to Haris Seferovic in the starting line-up.
Honduras coach Luis Fernando Suarez said he had decided to quit after the defeat.
"I am not satisfied with what we achieved at the World Cup... I think the team will have good results in the future.
"But I think someone can replace me and produce different results," the coach said.
"Today is the last day of my contract, and I have taken the decision unilateraly not to continue... I want to do something else."
Switzerland took the lead after six minutes, when Shaqiri unleashed a thunderbolt into the top-left corner which left Honduras goalkeeper Noel Valladares rooted to the spot.
The quick-footed 22-year-old made it 2-0 in the 31st minute, steering the ball past Valladares after he was released by Drmic.
Roared on by chants of "Go Suisse" from their fans in the Amazonia Arena - where humidity reached 88 per cent, coupled with a temperature of 26 deg C - the Swiss proved too hot to handle for Honduras.
Valladares twice denied Drmic late in the first half, which was one-way traffic as the central American side failed to muster a meaningful attempt at goal.
The Hondurans, cheered by most neutral fans, were more purposeful early in the second half and nearly pulled one back when Swiss defender Ricardo Rodriguez cleared Jerry Bengtson's shot off the line.
It was a wake-up call for the Swiss, and Shaqiri came close to adding a third, forcing another good save from Valladares before Honduras had a penalty claim waved away after Jerry Palacios went down under a challenge from Johan Djourou.
Spurred on by Mexican Waves on the terraces, Honduras threw men forward and were caught cold in the 71st minute, when Drmic's good work down the left flank presented Shaqiri with a simple finish from eight metres.
Diego Benaglio kept out a close-range Bengtson header in the closing stages as the tempo dropped in searing heat, which did not stop pockets of Swiss supporters celebrating, long after the final whistle. - AFP.
HONDURAS: Noel Valladares, Brayan Beckeles, Victor Bernardez, Maynor Figueroa, Juan Carlos Garcia, Oscar Garcia (Andy Najar 77), Jorge Claros, Wilson Palacios, Roger Espinoza (Marvin Chavez 46), Carlo Costly (Jerry Palacios 40), Jerry Bengtson
SWITZERLAND: Diego Benaglio, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Fabian Schaer, Johan Djourou, Ricardo Rodriguez, Xherdan Shaqiri (Blerim Dzemaili 87), Valon Behrami, Granit Xhaka (Michael Lang 77), Gokhan Inler, Admir Mehmedi, Josip Drmic (Haris Seferovic 73).
I did not pay any attention to the critics. I wanted to show we could play football and that’s what we did... I played very well and I’m very happy about that and proud of the team.
— Xherdan Shaqiri, responding to criticism about his play in the first two matches